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Burn After Reading More at IMDbPro »

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7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

The Coens Take a Hatchet to their League of Morons

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
14 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Coen Brothers' "Burn After Reading" is one of those movies with a farcical and convoluted plot involving idiotic one-up-manship that is essentially an excuse for the filmmakers to poke fun and for their stars to have a great time doing silly bits. Here our zany Brothers return to one of their favorite themes: what happens when simpletons get in way over their heads with a cynical league of morons. Clooney, McDormand, Malcovich, Swinton, and especially Pitt, all whip out their best comedic timing and smarmy facial expressions in this tale of misguided blackmail and bumbling counter-intelligence. Unlike their last two comedic travesties (the barely there "Intolerable Cruelty" and the wacko "Ladykillers"), the Coens' focus is sharper and crueler in this "Reading" and pointed directly at the government, society, themselves and their audience.

I've seen four out of the last five Coen Brothers' films in crowded theaters where their faithful often laugh out of turn at some of the most unfunny of moments. "Burn After Reading" has plenty of those moments, as well as some truly funny ones, but one has to wonder why such a talented pair would shoot so low as to desire the elicitation of that "solo" laughter from the loons in the audience that constitute the filmmakers' personal league of morons. When Clooney's hardwood floor-loving womanizer unveils his "special project" to McDormand's plastic-surgery obsessed internet speed dater, it's a hilarious anti-climax to what had been a long build-up in previous scenes that had the whole crowd groaning and giggling. But isn't Clooney's rear-entry sexual-aid device a bit emblematic of how the Coens' have been treating their audience lately? Later, when Malcovich's alcoholic ex-CIA analyst literally takes a hatchet to another character, it again elicits uproars, but I couldn't help but think the Coens' were symbolically taking out their frustration on the faithful who have been befuddled by their recent offerings. We're a cynical bunch, and so are the Coens, and whether they see themselves as the simpletons in over their heads and their audience as the league of morons, or vice versa, is never clear.

At least with this slow "Burn" we don't have to deal with the pretentious philosophical ruminations of their literary bound and insanely overrated Oscar-winner, "No Country for Old Men". While this might not recapture the pure joy of their original dark comedy, "Raising Arizona", this star-studded and occasionally hilarious "Burn After Reading" is the Coen Brothers' most entertaining film in years, even if we're all a little more bruised from the wear.

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Typical Coen brothers' - apparent meaninglessness?

Author: janoleolsen from Norway
27 February 2010

It's a movie with celebrities, but seems trivial and trite. It feels like overacting and not making much sense to watch, some amusing scene at a Russian embassy about some nonsense espionage was somewhat memorable.

But this lack of any interesting story is my impression of some other movies made by the Coen brothers, like "Serious Man". It's a bit like in Seinfeld when they want to make a story about nothing, but Seinfeld makes me laugh though - didn't do that watching this sort of comedy...

Ocean's 11-13 is bit of the same style, putting some celebrities in a movie, and not creating much of a story - a bit like overacting put together. However, the Ocean's movies were a bit more entertaining.

There could be excellent artistic views on this movie if you're expert on that kind of stuff, but for an average movie goer it will likely not be something you want to watch.

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Forget after viewing

Author: Flint-13 from Adelaide, Australia
16 May 2009

I didn't bother to read reviews. I saw it listed on pay TV and looked at names like Coen, Clooney, Malkovich, Pitt and McDormand. It had to be a winner.


The script was weird. Things didn't connect well and there was superfluous stuff that didn't move the story forwards. Even in a dark comedy, there needs to be structure.

Perhaps the first scene and the last scene were the best in the whole movie, but neither made much sense on their own, or together.

I'm glad it was on TV, because I was able to feed the dogs and make coffee and do a few chores while it ran. I could still follow the movie (I almost typed "story") and figure out what everyone was doing, but it still wasn't entertaining. I think I chuckled twice.

So, it set me thinking: how can top names get together and make something so bad? Then I remembered "Ocean's Twelve."

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Major disappointment

Author: karen_g32 from Perry, NY
28 January 2009

When I saw the previews for this movie I was sure that it had to be a winner. Just look at the cast. George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Bitt, John Malcovich.......all winners in my book.

I didn't get to the theater to see it so when it was available on Pay for View I watched it. What a waste of time and money. No real plot. Confusing storyline. I heard more forms of the F word than I had ever heard before. If you had taken that four letter word out of the script, it would have been a the shortest script on record. Mindless props. For example, the chair that George Clooney's character is building in his basement.

It wasn't a comedy, it wasn't a drama, it wasn't a mystery. When it was over I wanted to call the cable company and demand my money back. If I were any of these wonderful actors I would be ashamed to be associated with this picture. All I can say is they must have needed the money real bad.

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A better title: Burn Before Viewing.

Author: adamzad from BP, CA, USA
27 December 2008

This movie made no sense. It was a rambling, disjointed farce of movie-making. Fourteen sub-plots in search of a story. It's too late for me, but you can still save yourself the two hours of your life that you could spend watching a GOOD movie. Better yet, read a book.

Since IMDb insists I have at least 10 lines of text, here are a few more comments:

Avoid this movie at all costs.

Spend the money you'd spend renting or buying this movie on Botox injections, it'll be less painful.

Remember: Burn first, THEN watch.

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

coen brothers again!! no way!!!!

Author: Matthew William Stallard from London, UK
14 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

well... I have to be honest... I wonder if they ask themselves what have we done... the movie does not have anything except the billionaire of Hollywood.... I just watched the movie tonight... and it was my longest 1 hour 22 minutes exactly!!! The cast was wonderful!!!! John Malkovich... George Clooney and Bradd Pitt...! Im not discussing the quality of the actors or cast! all Im saying is... what is this movie... I really wasted my 1 hour 22 minutes... by watching Coen brothers foolish story... This was the second time... No Country for old man was the first time... but if has to be honest no country for old man was a wonderful movie against this one which has been carried by the success of the head role... he was a great actor...

I also wondered why did brad pit accepted such a role... It was really funny...

Im sorry to criticise in this way but... the movie cant be voted more than 1... It was an awful movie... all those money for all those cast... for nothing...

Oscar does not mean anything which is good or bad... We have seen such type of things for years... and NOW its enough...

Thanks for the Coen brothers they did such a terrible job... If Hollywood needs a scenarios Im ready to sent my screenplays which are more smart... and I don't need Brad Pitt or George Clooney in the cast!

This is gonna be the LAST movie I watched from Coen brothers...

and I judge about judgement of Oscar if they give this movie any of Oscars... it has nothing... it does not have an idea... there was nothing genius... it was only a cast show...

It does not mean a good movie if there is tons of Brad Pitts George Clooneys and John Malkovichs around...

1 if there was -1000 I would give that too...

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Don't waste your time or money

Author: AlistaireRoache ( from United Kingdom
21 October 2008

As I write this IMDb has an average user rating for this film as 7.8, Rotten tomatoes has awarded it 79% and as I glance at it's ad on the back cover of this weeks Time Out, one is presented with a red and yellow back drop for a galaxy of stars. Twenty five to be exact. Four each from five very reputable publications (The Times, The Guardian, Empire, Time Out and The Independent) and of course the snapshots of five of Hollywood's finest. On further exploration between the constellations you find the familiar names of Joel and Ethan Coen. With such a solar system of names and praise, it would certainly seem that the brothers Coen have indeed created, as the poster proclaims, 'America's No.1 Comedy'.

I had the pleasure of winning a couple of tickets to watch this Comedy the night before it's official release.Having only seen, but not really paid too much attention to the television advertisements for this film, I was also in the fortunate position, not to have formed opinion or developed any impression from the wonders of the galaxy outlined above. Having witnessed the ninety six minutes of this feature the only opinion or impression I was left with is that this film is truly rubbish. Knowing my constitution, these are harsh words, but I can not be more sure, it is an accurate description. Only after leaving the auditorium and gazing upon the poster outside did I first learn of the praise this film has received. I had to confess to my date that evening, I would have to agree with the likes of The Times, Guardian, Empire, Time Out, and Independent, I would also award this film four stars, but only if it were out of twenty.

Something was amiss. Had I lost all taste for what can be construed as a good film or was it that Ethan and Joel have become so huge that anything they can put their name to is going to be dusted with diamonds. Reflecting back on the ninety six minutes, I can only conclude that it is the latter. This is one of those films where the directors/writers have run different story lines along side each other, each slightly interlinked and with them coming together to tie it up nicely. Taking this recipe for a clever film has not produced the suggested results. I was almost tempted to walk out as the story takes so long to get going, and don't presume you'll be rewarded for your patience. This film offers the viewer very little. Each of the story lines and characters are not well developed enough to keep you engaged or entertained. As to the comedy, the only way this film is funny, it that there is amusement to be found in watching the very famous (Cloony, McDormand, Malcovich, Swinton and Pitt) playing roles as idiots. However, at best the comedy only provides a rare, seeking chuckle and not the common side-splitting chortle you are promised from 'America's No.1 Comedy'.

If your idea of a good film is watching famous names, looking a bit silly, only to get a few instances of solid silliness, then this one is certainly for you. However, if you need a modicum more than this, whether it be from storyline, comedy, character development etc etc, do not be dazzled by the array of 'praise' which comes with this film. Any money or time spent on it would only be wasted. 2/10

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Insult to Coen Brothers Fans

Author: flickchick84 from Canada
16 September 2008

I agree that this film was a mockery of not only the actors in it, but also the audience members. I think the Coen Brothers tried to make a movie quickly on the heels of No Country for Old Men and figured since No Country did so well, everyone would come and see Burn After Reading. Well, they were right, as I heard the movie topped the box office this past weekend, which is unfortunate. The performances in the movie are overall well done. At times it felt as though some of the actors broke character, but this could be a result of poor writing. It had occasional moments where the audience would burst into a quick laugh, but not enough of them. I found the plot to be confusing with many dead ends. The last quarter of the film feels very rushed. The few gory bits seemed to be simply for the sake of gore, out of place, and just for shock value. Now, the thing that bothered me (and most of the audience) the most...the boom mic kept dropping into the scenes!!! From the very beginning of the movie right until the end, it happened over and over again! I would say the boom mic was visible in at least 70% of the movie. In a hotel room, it can even be seen in the mirror beside the bed. It was so blatant and obvious that we began wondering if it was done on purpose. Everyone in the theatre picked up on it and kept pointing it out. I even heard a man behind us say "Oh my god, that is bugging me so much!". It really takes away from the movie itself and is the worst example of this happening I've ever seen. I found the ending disappointing. I won't spoil it, but it left too many loose ends untied. I am a HUGE fan of the Coen Brothers. I would never trash them without reason. O Brother Where Art Thou, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country For Old Men are some of my favourite movies of all time; but Burn After Reading does not measure up at all. I hate to say it, and i'm sure you'll all roll your eyes, but it should've been called "Burn After Watching".

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8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Clumsy And Mean Spirited

Author: jenkins-21 from Ohio
15 September 2008

Just when the Coen brothers start getting some respect from me (No Country for Old Men) they put out something like Burn After Reading that makes me start to dislike them again. Smug, Smart Ass and Condescending the movie seems to be a joke on the audience (how dare you take us seriously!) If this is satire, its pretty heavy handed. As a comedy it comes up short as well. There are some sporadic laughs but they aren't really worth the investment. The plot in a nutshell: 2 brain challenged Health Club workers (McDormand and Pitt) come across a computer disk left by an nut case ex-CIA agent (Malkovich) When the ex-agent (who's just been fired) doesn't want to give them a reward, (it's his memoirs) they decide to see if the Russian embassy might want to buy it. Malkovich is married to Tilda Swinton who is having an affair with George Clooney who is also boinking McDormand on the side. It all sounds complicated, but it isn't very involving or funny. The movie takes a long time to get going, then it doesn't really go anywhere. One scene where someone is dispatched is so clumsily shot and edited you aren't sure what happened. Another likable character in the film is killed off and we are supposed to laugh at the gruesome details. The actors are mostly wasted though Pitt, McDormand and Malkovich do wring some laughs out of it. THe 2 actors who play he CIA agents come off best. All in all, a major disappointment. For die hard Coen fans only.

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9 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A Little Bit Of Potential Lost In A Whole Lot Of Muddle

Author: sddavis63 ( from Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
26 January 2010

"What did we learn, Palmer?" "I don't know, sir." "I don't f...'in know either. I guess we learned not to do it again." That exchange between the head of the CIA (I guess) and one of his agents closes out this movie and about sums up my reaction to this movie. After more than an hour and a half, I don't really have a clue what happened, and I sure hope it doesn't lead to anything else!

There was some potential, and I confess that I really did chuckle a few times at some of the ridiculous situations that were portrayed, but overall this whole thing was a muddle of those ridiculous situations. The basic premise seemed to be promising. An ex-intelligence officer leaves a disc with what appears to be classified information on it at the gym after a workout. It's found and two employees - Linda and Chad (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) - decide to use it to make some money to help Linda pay for some cosmetic surgery she wants. It almost sounds like it could have been a slapstick sort of semi-spy caper, but it just didn't seem to work. The attempts to get laughs out of the viewer seemed too forced - everyone seemed to be trying too hard to be funny, but humour needs to flow more naturally to be truly funny. Of all the cast, the only one I really enjoyed watching was Brad Pitt, who was cast a bit against type. He's a sort of gay-like (because that was never really spelled out but seemed implied) fitness coach. Other than that, I was quite underwhelmed by everyone and everything. 2/10

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